I became a big Doyle Bramhall II fan after picking up the 1992 debut album by the band Arc Angels, Bramhall's superb one-off collaboration with Stevie Ray Vaughan's old Double Trouble rhythm section of Chris Layton (drums) and Tommy Shannon (bass), and fellow, Texas, blues-rock disciple Charlie Sexton sharing the guitar and vocal duties.
The album was a killer, but Bramhall's substance abuse problems led to the band's untimely demise the very next year, just as they were really getting started. The good news is that the band has been playing together again occasionally since 2002, and Bramhall has indicated on his website that there are a couple of Arc Angels DVDs in the works. Bramhall went on to release three solo albums and has also toured and recorded with the likes of Roger Waters and Eric Clapton.
If you want to see Bramhall really tearing things up on a few other DVDs, check out both of the Eric Clapton Crossroads DVDs, and don't miss Roger Water's In The Flesh Live concert DVD. They would not have been nearly as good without his performances.
Live From The Great Wall Of China was filmed on September 25, 2004 and is Doyle Bramhall II's first starring role in a concert video. This time it was just him and his smoking rhythm section of Mike Elizondo on bass and JJ Johnson on drums. So does he have what it takes to carry a show himself? Well, yes and no.
Bramhall's guitar playing is truly remarkable, and his singing is nearly as impressive. His distinctive style and sound are instantly recognizable, and he always adds something special to each of the collaborations he undertakes. Throughout this DVD, Eric Clapton speaks glowingly of Bramhall, and does not hesitate to lump him in the same league as himself and all of the other blues-rock greats.
I can't say that I disagree with Clapton when it comes to Bramhall's natural talent, it's just that I have found his three solo albums to be very inconsistent and quite unremarkable. He could really use a good songwriter to work with, which is what made the Arc Angels album so superior to his own. His stage presence is not exactly electric either. He looks very unaffected and almost seems bored during this show.